Question and Answer
by Orson Scott Card
OSC was recently asked this question and we thought the answer might be of
interest to IGMS readers.
Question: What do you think about the way science fiction is perceived by
OSC's Reply: Fortunately for science fiction, we were ignored or treated with
disdain by the critics and academics through our formative decades. Left to
ourselves, we developed our own critical standards, had our own literary
movements, and therefore grew and expanded by leaps and bounds -- while
"mainstream" literature remained ossified, doing the same things over and over and
still calling them "experimental" after nearly a century.
Modernism took over academia early on, and despite the cosmetic changes, the
same canon continues; even multiculturalism didn't really challenge the canon, it
just added to it the works of literature from other cultures that most closely
reflected the values of Modernism.
Science fiction was, in fact, the next great literary revolution after Modernism --
arriving right on generational schedule. It immediately attracted the best and the
brightest of young readers -- there are statistics on readers of the various genres,
and sci-fi wins on IQ every time -- which drove the academics crazy, because they
had already decided what "literature" was and none of their dogmas was relevant to
science fiction. Behaving like normal human beings, the academic-literary tribe
condemned what they did not understand.
More recently, however, the kids who grew up reading sci-fi and fantasy have
become the professors at the universities. So far, they are still praising most of the
books that least resemble sci-fi and most resemble the Modernists (i.e., performing
the same tedious "experiments"), but more and more, the actual values and
techniques of science fiction are creeping into the discourse.
At the same time, though, science fiction is fading as a genre precisely because our
revolution has so successfully permeated the culture. We have, in a sense, become
the literature; most of the hot new writers today are actually writing science fiction,
or freely using the techniques invented there, no matter what label is on their
books. This makes it less necessary for the genre to exist, and most of the best new
speculative fiction writers are creating fantasy rather than sci-fi.